The "Disastrous" Costs of Climate Change

Real Estate and Land Use, Environmental

1/19/2018 by Janet Neuman

"Natural" disasters cost the United States a record amount of $306 billion in 2017, topping the previous record of $215 billion in 2005, the year of Hurricane Katrina. This past year also tied with 2011 for the highest number of billion-dollar disasters—a total of 16. The events included floods, fires, storms, droughts, and freezes—pretty much everything except locusts and the plague—according to the folks at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Centers for Environmental Information, whose job it is to keep track of these statistics.
Oregon had its share of this price tag, with the cost of fighting wildfires nearing a quarter of a billion dollars. The damage was not as high as it might have been, since the year's fires did not break any records for acreage, but the two largest fires, Eagle Creek and Chetco Bar, were very costly because of their threat to homes and other infrastructure.
The fact that these disasters come from nature does not make them entirely natural, as human-caused climate change is certainly part of the problem. Although there is not a straight cause-and-effect line between climate change and the increasing frequency of severe natural disasters, the "fingerprints" of climate change are at least evident in the growing number of extreme events, according to scientists. NOAA reports that 2017 was the third consecutive year that every one of our 50 states had hotter-than-average annual temperature. President Trump's tweets to the contrary, the long-term warming trend is not disproven by occasional record cold temperatures, which can be disasters in their own right.
Bottom line? In addition to the suffering and sorrow caused by natural disasters, these events also cost the U.S. a disastrous amount of money, and 2017 was a particularly rough year. Although we can hope for a less eventful 2018, the bomb cyclone and the California floods are already getting the year off to a bumpy start.